AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Zach LaVine has only played 11 games with Lonzo Ball, but the Chicago Bulls star is already praising the fifth-year point guard.
Speaking to ESPN’s Jamal Collier, LaVine called Ball “one of the highest IQ guys I’ve played with.”
“This dude is the real deal,” LaVine added. “He affects the game in so many different ways. Obviously, people try to figure out what you can’t do and you don’t appreciate all the good things that you do do.”
Ball has been praised for his intelligence on the court dating back to his time at UCLA.
In a pre-draft scouting report for ESPN.com, Chad Ford compared Ball’s ceiling to Jason Kidd.
“He’s the best passer in the draft,” Ford wrote. “In fact, he might be the best passer to come out of the draft in the last decade. His court vision and ability to anticipate plays before they develop is uncanny. He also has deep range on his jump shot and is a very good finisher at the rim.”
The early returns on Chicago’s offseason spending spree, which included giving Ball a four-year, $85 million contract as part of a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, have been extremely promising.
Even though Ball’s counting stats have been down compared to his final season with the Pelicans, his overall performance is a key reason behind the Bulls’ hot start. The 24-year-old is only averaging 12.6 points and a career-low 4.5 assists per game but is shooting a career-high 41.7 percent from three-point range.
Citing ESPN Stats & Information, Collier noted the Bulls’ 1.41 points per possession in transition is the second-best mark in the league.
Collier added that Second Spectrum tracking has credited Ball with 21 assists in transition, third-most in the NBA.
Chicago currently ranks sixth in both offensive and defensive rating, and its plus-7.4 net rating is third in the NBA, per Basketball-Reference.com.
This marks the latest in a season that the Bulls have been over .500 since 2016-17 when they were 7-4 after 11 games. They finished that season 41-41 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Boston Celtics.